Kennedy family officially endorses Biden at campaign event in latest snub to RFK Jr

At least 15 members of the storied Kennedy political family, which produced a president, two senators, and multiple House members since the 1950s, endorsed President Joe Biden for re-election on Thursday over independent candidate, Robert F Kennedy Jr, the son of the late New York senator who was killed while running for president in 1968.

Speaking at a Biden campaign event at the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Centre in Philadelphia, Mr Kennedy’s sister, Kerry Kennedy, said she and her family were “happy today to pledge our unwavering support to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris” because a vote for the 46th president would be “a vote for our democracy and our decency”.

She also denounced Mr Biden’s Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, as “the most anti-democratic president in American history”.

“Donald Trump is running to take us backwards attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are at the core of who we are as Americans. He’s saying he will be a dictator on day one, even saying he wants to suspend the constitution so he can go after his enemies, after his critics after the press,” she said, adding that Mr Trump, in her estimation, is “running to use his power to punish his enemies, silence his opponents,” and unleash “more chaos, division and political violence with his extreme agenda”.

Ms Kennedy, quoting her father’s 1968 campaign announcement in which he said he felt “obliged to do all that [he] can” to keep the country from falling under the wrong leadership, echoed his vow that he could not “stand aside”.

“We are here because we feel obliged to do all that we can. We cannot stand aside in this election. No American can stand aside. We must vote,” she said.

In what was a tacit rejection of her own brother — without mentioning his name — she said this year’s race features “only two candidates with any chance of winning the presidency”.

She also described Mr Biden — not her brother — as a rightful heir to her father’s political legacy.

“I can only imagine how Donald Trump’s outrageous lies and behaviour would have horrified my father, Senator Robert F Kennedy who proudly served as the Attorney General of the United States and honoured his pledge to uphold the law and protect the country. Daddy stood for equal justice, for human rights and freedom from want and fear, just as President Biden does today,” she said.

The Kennedy family has mostly rejected the insurgent campaign by the environmental lawyer and vaccine skeptic in favour of Mr Biden, who’s only the second Catholic president, John F Kennedy being the first.

In what was then a sign of the prevailing sentiment among members of the storied Irish-American political clan, a large group of Kennedys appeared with Mr Biden at the White House during a St Patrick’s Day celebration in March.

In addition, multiple Kennedy family members are serving in Mr Biden’s administration, including Caroline — who also served as US Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration — and former Massachusetts Representative Joseph Kennedy III, who now serves as Mr Biden’s Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

Former Representative Joseph Kennedy III serves as Mr Biden’s Special Envoy to Northern Ireland (AP)

The family’s formal endorsement of the 46th president comes as polling between Mr Biden and former President Donald Trump tightens, with RFK Jr’s presence in the race serving as a growing source of agita among Democrats.

According to some polls, a third-party candidate with high name recognition such as Mr Kennedy could become a spoiler for Mr Biden by pulling away just enough votes for Mr Trump to be victorious in battleground states, allowing him to win the electoral college.

A group 30 of Kennedy family members visited Mr Biden at the White House last month. (@KerryKennedyRFK/Twitter)

For his part, the president used the campaign stop to hit out at former president Donald Trump’s use of violent political rhetoric and his dark vision for the United States as he accepted the endorsement of perhaps the most famous family in the history of Democratic politics, the Kennedy family.

He warned the raucous crowd that this year’s presidential election will be a choice between “two fundamentally different visions,” with Mr Trump’s being one of “anger hate revenge and retribution” that embraces “the insurrectionists of January the Sixth”.

Referring to the twin assassinations that took the lives of President John F Kennedy and his brother, the late New York Senator and former US attorney general Robert F Kennedy, Mr Biden said Mr Trump’s “whitewashing” of the Capitol attack and his call for a “bloodbath” if he loses in November were both “outrageous”.

“I have a very different view of America: One of hope and optimism … optimism of the Bobby Kennedy variety,” he said.

“I see America when we defend democracy, not diminish it. I see America we protect our freedoms, not take them away. And I see in America where the economy grows and the middle out and the bottom up. And that way the middle class does well and the poor have a shot, and where healthcare is a right, not a privilege”.

Both Republicans and Democrats are concerned that with an electorate less-than-enthused about the current candidates, third party candidates such Mr Kennedy may be able to grab a small but significant number of votes from them which could be decisive in November.

In an effort to avoid such an outcome, members of the Kennedy family are planning on making calls and knocking on doors in support of Mr Biden.

While a small number of Kennedy family members are not choosing to endorse Mr Biden — including Caroline, the US ambassador, and former NBC News Today show anchor and ex-California First Lady turned nonprofit leader Maria Shriver, the Biden campaign has attributed their stance to the nonpolitical nature of their engagements, not to support for his opponent.

During a Thursday appearance on MSNBC ahead of the Philadelphia event, Kerry Kennedy said Mr Biden’s re-election campaign was “about democracy … about freedom,” and “about the people of America, not only our country but all around the world”.

“ And that’s why it’s so, so important for every single person to come out and vote … If everybody votes, Biden wins. But right now, this is going to be a very, very close election,” she said.

“We can’t have people voting for third parties no matter who they are,” she added. “In every family … Americans have diverse views. You have to love your family members. You don’t have to like them. I love Bobby, and I like Bobby. But this campaign is not about Bobby, this campaign is about Trump versus Biden. And what we need to do today is focus on Biden winning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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